Steps start for special election for Schmitt's seat

Legis. Peter Schmitt, Presiding Officer of the Nassau County Legislature, died Wednesday after a massive heart attack. The Massapequa Republican was 62. Videojournalists: Jim Staubitser and Newsday staff (Oct. 3, 2012)

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The process for calling a special election for the seat of Nassau County Legis. Peter Schmitt (R-Massapequa), who died of a heart attack Wednesday, started Thursday when the position was officially declared vacant.

County Executive Edward Mangano will call a special election to fill Schmitt's seat, but officials said an announcement will not come until after Schmitt's funeral on Monday.

"As the county mourns the loss of the presiding officer of the Nassau County Legislature Peter Schmitt, there will be no statement regarding the legislative process until Tuesday, October 9, 2012," said County Attorney John Ciampoli.

The county charter says special elections must occur 30 to 60 days from the date a seat is declared vacant.

If Mangano wants to hold the vote on the day of the general election -- Nov. 6 -- he would need to submit paperwork no later than Friday, said Democratic Board of Elections Commissioner William Biamonte. That would put election officials on a tight schedule as military ballots must go out on Monday. The legislative district has 51 military voters.

The 12th District, which includes Massapequa, Massapequa Park and portions of Seaford and North Massapequa, is Nassau's most solidly Republican district, Biamonte said. Just less than 50 percent of the district's 51,070 registered voters are Republicans. Democrats represent more than 23 percent of all voters, while 21 percent are unaligned. The remainder are registered Independence Party members or Conservatives.

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Democrats and Republicans will hold special nominating conventions in upcoming weeks to pick candidates for Schmitt's seat.

Among those interested in running is Republican Gary Slavin, a past president of the Massapequa Chamber of Commerce. "Massapequa needs someone who will fight for the community," said Slavin, an insurance salesman for Met Life.

Nassau Democratic chairman Jay Jacobs and Anthony Santino, spokesman for Nassau GOP chairman Joseph Mondello, each declined to discuss possible candidates.

Until a replacement for Schmitt is elected, legislative Republicans and Democrats will be evenly split 9-9, only weeks before they are due to vote on the 2013 budget.

The charter stipulates that the budget must be passed by Oct. 30. If the deadline passes and no action is taken by Dec. 31, Nassau would continue utilizing the 2012 budget.

Legis. Norma Gonsalves (R-East Meadow), who will serve as interim presiding officer, said she was hopeful the parties can agree on a 2013 budget plan.

"Maybe this will all lead to a calmer and more cooperative legislature," Gonsalves said. "We need to communicate and find common ground."

Jacobs said the "Democratic caucus is looking for ways to cooperate with the county executive so as not to hold up the government due to this very unfortunate circumstance."

The legislature typically holds three hearings on the budget before scheduling a vote but Gonsalves now expects to hold only one.

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A vote on a new presiding officer could come as early Oct. 22, the next meeting of the full legislature. Gonsalves said she would accept the job if she receives the unanimous support of the GOP caucus. If the chamber deadlocks, Gonsalves would serve in the role until Schmitt's replacement is sworn in.

With Bill Bleyer

Services for Nassau Legis. Peter Schmitt

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A wake will be tomorrow and Sunday at the Massapequa Funeral Home, 4980 Merrick Rd. in Massapequa Park, from 2-4 p.m. and 7-9 p.m.

A funeral Mass will be Monday at 11 a.m. at St. Rose of Lima Parish, 2 Bayview Ave., in Massapequa.

Burial will follow at Grace Cemetery, across the street from the church.

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